The Colorado Symphony is one of the greatest sources of entertainment that Denver has to offer. Year after year, the organization provides countless events for the community to enjoy. 2018 marks the 25th year of the Colorado Symphony Ball, their annual event to raise funds for the upcoming season and to mingle with donors and symphony enthusiasts who have supported the excellent ensemble. The group will be performing RhapsodyRock, which will include a performance celebrating Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue as an ode to United Airlines. United Airlines will be featured as a guest of honor and recipient of the prestigious Margaret Phipps award. The airline uses the 1924 composition in their advertisements and in-flight safety videos.

The event will include dinner and a cocktail hour, and tiered seating for the performance based on donation. The night will be hosted at the historic Fillmore Auditorium on Colfax, which, with its dazzling chandeliers, is sure to be a spectacular evening for all involved. We got to speak to the Director of Music, Brett Mitchell, about what he is most looking forward to and why this year will stand out in his years of memories.

303 Magazine: This event is very exciting and very imperative for the Symphony’s annual funding. Last year, this event raised over $1 million. What are the major goals for this year’s fundraising?

Brett Mitchell: This event is a huge part of what we do. As a non-profit, we try to be as creative as we can with our events. Every orchestra that I have been in has an event like this, and this is my first of this kind in Denver.

The big focus of this year and every year are our education initiatives that bring kids into shows and brings outreach programs to them. These big fundraising events make these kinds of community engagement events possible.

303: Funds aside, what is the most exciting aspect for you, as the music director?

BM: This kind of event is a bit out of the ordinary for me. I have never been to a ball where the director conducts the ball, and I am so excited.

303: The night is also about shedding light on the outstanding contributions that have been made to the Symphony in the last year, otherwise known as the recipients of the prestigious Margaret Phipps Award. Can you tell us what makes your personally excited about United Airlines being the recipient?

BM: When I first moved to Denver, it took my wife about a year before she joined me. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Rhapsody in Blue during the flights back and forth. So many times, I think I could already play it. We are thrilled to honor them.

303: Who are you most looking forward to performing?

BM: So many people. One is definitely Natasha [Paremski] doing Gershwin. She’s created a huge following since our first time working together. Also, The Merger. I’m 38, and as someone who grew up in Seattle listening to Nirvana, I think fusing pop with the Symphony is going to be incredible.

303: Governor Hickenlooper is also slated to be on the bill this year. That is so exciting.

BM: It’s great to have support from the prominent community. There are only 365 nights in a year, and there are so many causes for them to spend their time on. It is so inspiring to have these kinds of people behind us.

303:  In the past, what has made for the most memorable events that you have worked on?

BM: These kinds of events all bleed together after a while. Sure, it is fun to get dressed up. However, at the end of the night, what you remember is the people that you’re with. I want to say hi to as many people as I can. It is important that the donors feel appreciated and to have memories of the evening. My goal is to create as many personal memories of the night as I can.

303:  If the event is successful, what can we expect from the Symphony in 2018?

BM: Well, we joke that if these events are as successful as we’d like, then we wouldn’t need them anymore! [laughs] A lot depends on what we make. I have every anticipation that this ball will be our best and most lucrative yet.

What a successful night will enable us to do is to dream even bigger in the future. We will be able to expand what we can do in the 2019/2020 season.

303: For those who have never attended a Symphony event, what can we tell them that they might not know?

BM: The biggest misperception that I get from people who are not used to the Symphony culture is, “I’m just a regular guy.” Well, I and everyone playing on stage are all just regular guys, too. It’s not elitist. If I, a guy who grew up on grunge music like Nirvana in Seattle, can fall in love with Beethoven and make a career of it, then everybody has an in. I think people let their background dictate their next move. If I can fall in love with this music, then it is for everybody.

This interview has been condensed and edited. 

All photography courtesy of The Colorado Symphony. 

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